January 27, 2008

Great effort by Harden wasted in loss to WSU

With 8.1-seconds left and Arizona State down by one point, James Harden got exactly what he wanted.

Coach Herb Sendek called an isolation play for the freshman sensation and told Harden to go win the game.

"Coach put the ball in my hands and I drove all the way," Harden said. "Unfortunately I didn't come up with the basket."

When asked, Harden said he thought he was fouled on the game deciding play, but no whistle was blown and ASU (14-5, 4-3 Pac-10) lost 56-55 to No. 6 Washington State (17-2, 5-2) Saturday night in front of 10,104 fans at Wells Fargo Arena.

This was ASU's third straight loss after beginning Pac-10 play a perfect 4-0.

The 3-point shot plagued the Sun Devils all night. The Cougars made 10-of-22 from behind the arc while ASU was only able to connect on two of its 14 tries.

Also, WSU double-teamed Jeff Pendergraph with two big men all night, taking away his scoring presence.

"It's a way that we felt we could keep the ball out of his hands because he's a heck of a player," WSU coach Tony Bennett said. "It's an attack we use quite a bit."

Pendergraph finished the game with only six points and six rebounds in 30 minutes of action.

With Pendergraph held in check, Sendek was not pleased with the lack of production from the rest of the team. He said other guys besides the big two, Harden and Pendergraph, need to step up if the Sun Devils want to get back their wining ways.

"We don't have great scoring balance right now," he said. "Ideally, [scoring balance] is what you want to be able to project."

ASU started the game with more energy than it has had in its past several games, and dominated the first 15 minutes of the contest, leading by as many as 11.

The Cougars ended the half on an 8-0 run, however, which was capped off with a lay-up by reserve center Caleb Forrest as time expired.

On the previous possession, Eric Boateng was whistled for a lane violation with ASU holding the ball 30-plus feet from the hoop in an effort to run down clock before attempting a final field goal attempt of the half.

Boateng was standing with one foot in the paint, but he was not trying to gain any advantage. Sendek was visibly agitated with the official who made the call.

When asked what he shouted, Sendek said he was, "probably not allowed to talk about it."

WSU continued its hot streak when the second half resumed, stringing together a 19-2 run through the middle portion of the contest.

The Sun Devils finally got into a defensive rhythm at the 8:15 mark. After a 3-pointer by Derrick Low made it a 52-42 game, the Cougars went four minutes without a score. In that period, ASU scored six straight points, cutting the deficit to 52-48.

At the 3:09 mark, the Cougars stretched the lead back to eight points on a dunk by Aron Baynes. It would be their final points of the game.

ASU went on a 7-0 run, with three Ty Abbott free throws, a Jerren Shipp layup and driving basket by James Harden, to make the score 55-54.

With less than one minute remaining and ASU trailing by one, Harden was given his first chance to win the game, but he was whistled for a questionable charge with: 43 left on the clock.

Then, Harden's last possession was set up by a missed Cougar shot, and a jump ball that resulted in ASU possession.

Harden finished the game with 25 points, five rebounds and four assists.

ASU's next leading scorer was Abbott with 13, but Abbott made just 2-of-8 from 3-point range.

Up next for ASU is a trip to Los Angeles for match ups with UCLA on Jan. 31 and UCLA on Feb. 2.

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